Quick Notes on the Herald Sun’s Exam Errors Article

There is report today in The Herald Sun (Murdoch, paywalled), titled,

Mistake-riddled VCE maths exams robbing students

Regular readers will know pretty much the lay of the land. However, there may be some non-regular readers in the next few days. So, a few clarifying remarks are probably worthwhile. (This is quick: I’ll adjust as I can through the day.)

First of all, without reflecting at all on the accuracy or the merits of the report, I want to make clear that I had no role in the creation of the report. 

Secondly, at one point the report makes quick reference to this blog:

A Bad Mathematics blog run by a professional mathematician with a PhD in maths has identified more than 90 serious problems with specialist maths exams and 77 in maths methods, including sample exams and Northern Hemisphere exams going back to 2006.

More specifically, this appears to refer to the Specialist and Methods (and there’s also Further) error list posts (and the subsequent links included there). The report refers to “serious errors”. Without rejecting that language, the language I use on these posts is of “major” and “minor” errors:

To be as clear as possible, by “error”, we mean a definite mistake, something more directly wrong than pointlessness or poor wording or stupid modelling. The mistake can be intrinsic to the question, or in the solution as indicated in the examination report; examples of the latter could include an insufficient or incomplete solution, or a solution that goes beyond the curriculum. Minor errors are still errors and will be listed.

With each error, we shall also indicate whether the error is (in our opinion) major or minor, and we’ll indicate whether the examination report acknowledges the error, updating as appropriate. Of course there will be judgment calls, and we’re the boss. But, we’ll happily argue the tosses in the comments.

In recording and characterising such errors, I have made no attempt to determine or guess the effect of such errors on students’ scores. That seems to me to be a very difficult thing to do, for anyone.

Thirdly the report refers specifically to three questions in error on the 2022 Specialist Exam 2. That exam is discussed generally here. (The other 2022 exams are discussed here and here and here and here and here.) The specific questions are discussed here and here and here. These three questions (and others on the 2022 exams) appear to me to be unquestionably in error.

Fourthly, and finally for now, for me the prevalence of errors on the VCE exams is simply the tip of the iceberg. The many posts on this blog concerning VCE and VCAA indicate my more general concerns with VCE mathematics. (My broader maths ed concerns are probably best captured by this post.)

That’s it for now. I’ll update this post if something occurs to me, or if someone suggests in the comments that I somehow should.

New Cur 30: The Complete Pain Words


I am not a good writer. Primarily, I use the monkey-typewriter method: if you rewrite a sentence sufficiently many times then you’ll eventually wind up with something at least serviceable. Then, if you rewrite a paragraph sufficiently many times … And so on. It is not a very efficient method. Continue reading “New Cur 30: The Complete Pain Words”

Peter Dutton’s Broken Home

As soon as Potato Pete and his fellow “No” thugs started whining about the Voice Referendum being “divisive“, we were reminded of a great joke. We had figured the joke was a standard, but seemingly it is not: it took some tracking down. The joke is below, as it appeared on TV. It captures perfectly the hypocrisy and unmitigated gall of these wreckers.

Continue reading “Peter Dutton’s Broken Home”

The Guardian Objects to the University of Sydney’s Considered Voice

We will vote Yes on the Voice Referendum. Twice, if we think we can get away with it.

We did not begin that strongly in favour, but the sleaziness, vacuousness, blatant dishonesty and outright nastiness of the prominent No campaigners has convinced us as nothing else could. That toxic newt John Howard calling for people to “maintain the rage” is as revolting, and as idiotic, a command from an ex-PM as has ever been made. And they are all revolting. They are all lying. None of them believes a single nasty word they’re uttering. Except for Lidia Thorpe who is, instead, a dim-witted, narcissistic separatist. The entire No campaign has been disgusting, without a single ounce of rational thought or human decency. And so we have chosen to attack The Guardian.

Continue reading “The Guardian Objects to the University of Sydney’s Considered Voice”

Tom’s Posts Are (Lagrange) Multiplying

Tom has a new post on his Teaching Mathematics blog: Lagrange Multipliers – A Historical Approach? Tom riffs off of a (not uncommon) poor 1960’s undergraduate lecture he had, on the method of Lagrange multipliers. Please support Tom’s blog and check it out.

Continue reading “Tom’s Posts Are (Lagrange) Multiplying”